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Getting Published: When To Pay And When You Don’t

By Sophfronia Scott

How much should you pay to get your book published? I know this question is confusing because I once led a teleclass where a student asked me four times how much I paid to get my novel published. I said, “Nothing!”, but the answer didn’t make sense to her. She didn’t understand why I didn’t have to pay anything when she was being “pursued” by publishers offering packages that would cost her thousands of dollars. Welcome to today’s publishing world where the old model is often confused with the digital/self-publishing models and writers don’t know how or even if they have to spend their own money. Let me clarify. I hope this will help you make the right decisions for your book.

Traditional Publishers

Whether a traditional publishing house is one of the big ones, like Random House or St. Martin’s (which published my novel), or moderate to small like a Hay House, one thing remains the same: you pay nothing. When one of these houses is interested in your book, they pay you an advance to write the book and, if the book sells well, they will continue to pay you royalties. Depending on how large your publisher is and how excited they are about your book you may also get a nice marketing push and your own public relations person working to get your book noticed. There’s also a level of prestige and acceptance that comes from selling your book to a publishing house–reviewers take notice and it’s easier to get the major booksellers to stock your book. Of course, it’s also really difficult to get a traditional publisher interested in your book (you’ll probably need a literary agent), but if this is what you want for your project, you’ll do the things you need to do to get noticed.

Print On Demand Publishers

Many new writers think they are getting the attention of a traditional publisher when they are pursued by a POD publisher. Then they’re shocked when they find out how much they have to pay. You have to know that most POD publishers are totally reputable, but on a certain level, you’re still self-publishing. POD publishers offer a wide range of fee-based options including cover design, editing and marketing. They operate like a traditional publishing house in that the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is owned by the POD, not the author, and the company pays royalties to the author. Going POD can be pricey, but if you have zero experience in putting a book together they can be your best buy. Some of the popular ones include Lulu, Trafford Publishing, Author House, Outskirts Press and iUniverse.

Digital Printers

The most important thing to know about digital printers is that they just manufacture the book. You maintain control. You keep the copyright, you own the ISBN (which you’ll have to purchase yourself) and you figure out how to sell the book. You’ll also probably have to hire a designer and an editor to help you put the book in tip-top shape before handing it over to the printers. In this process you can ask the printers to send you a price quote or even get several to bid on your project. This could be your best pricing option. Just remember to ask for references and interview the authors to see how satisfied they were with their final product.

As always, do your homework. You can spend as much or as little as you want. Only you will know how close you come to producing the book that’s been in your mind forever.

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